A Birthday Tradition - Finding My Animal Totem for the Year

From a very young age I have always looked for signs to tell me if I am making a good or bad decision or I am on the right or wrong path. When I was in my thirties I learned about animal totems (think Native American totem poles), which are symbols for bringing meaning to a person's identity. Since then, when an unusual animals crosses my path I alway wonder what message this animal is trying to tell me.

One birthday, years ago, I almost stepped on a snake. Living in California at the time I was unsure if this snake was poisonous or not. When I googled to see if I placed myself in a life threatening situation (the snake turned out to be a red milk snake, which is not dangerous, just big!) I came across the symbolism for the snake totem. When the snake is your totem it is telling you to shed off your old beliefs and to not keep repeating the past. It is telling us to start fresh; a rebirth if you like.

That year was the beginning of this tradition. Now, each year on my birthday I see what uncommon animal crosses my path. Last year was the Owl, who told me to believe in myself and that I am far wiser than I give myself credit for. A message I really needed to hear at the time.

This year a beautiful golden Otter! When I looked up the meaning I could not help but smile.

The Otter's message is:

"Open your eyes to the wonderful things that surround you. You have forgotten how to savor the wonder in your life. Look with new eyes."


I recently wrote about being selfish and having fun in life. It appears that my animal totem this year is exactly about that.

The Otter is telling me to enjoy life. Even when life brings hardship start to see the good side of things. That there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.

The Otter is giving me permission to relax and go with the flow. It is telling me to take time out for myself and for me to learn to play again.

The Otter will teach me to be in the moment and accept the things that I cannot change. When I learn to accept I will be free of worrying.

So, do I look forward to this year? You betcha!

I think I will go out and buy a little birthday gift for myself; a stuffed otter to remind me it is okay to play hooky and seize some joyful moments just for me this year! Shhh, don't tell my kids!

Audrey van Petegem is an independent blogger that has been published on a variety of online magazine and blogs such as, Huffington Post, BlogHer, Elephant Journal and Midlife Boulevard. She describes herself as a book reviewer, midlifer and ponderer. As a baby boomer, she will be the first to tell you the good, the bad and the ugly about this stage of life. Follow her on Twitter @Audreyvp.